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How Air Purifiers Developed Through History

Like most inventions, air purifiers didn’t start out as a way for companies to make money. In its humble beginnings, air purifiers were made to fight air pollution which technological advancements around the world brought about.


As it turns out, the machine’s history is very rich and very helpful for today’s better lung health.

The Early Days

The Industrial Revolution was a good age for mankind in terms of technological advancements and its contribution to the society. Unfortunately, it also introduced serious pollution to many major cities. This brought about John and Charles Dean to develop the iconic gas mask in 1823.  (It’s actually the one that’s really famous in all those 1800s photos).


Close on their heels, John Stenhouse invented a superior mask in 1854 for coal miners and divers. This one was charcoal based; the charcoal pulled impurities from the air that people breathed, and was quite similar to the activated carbon filters still relied on and used today. In 1871, John Tyndall added a respirator to Stenhouse’s design, and the precursor of the modern gas mask was born.

The start of HEPA

World War II was the next turning point for the expansion of air pollution, and how inventors seek to combat it. The Atomic Energy Commission engaged in the Manhattan Project during this era, trying to find a way to end the war once and for all. Unfortunately, radioactive particles posed a very real and dangerous threat for everyone involved in the project.


In response, a top secret invention was made: the HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter. This new technology was capable of pulling 99.97% of impurities from the air; down to as small as 0.3 microns.

In 1963, two important events occurred in the history of air purifiers: the Clean Air Act and an invention by Klaus and Manfred Hammes in Germany.


The Clean Air Act is a United States federal law designed to control air pollution on a national level. It is one of the United States’ first and most influential modern environmental laws, and one of the most comprehensive air quality laws in the world. The Clean Air Act has increased awareness about the importance of clean air, and has prompted many movements that went to the air purification direction.

Meanwhile, the Hammes brothers invention – an air filtration system – made the technology more accessible than ever before. These two events converged to create a huge boom in the popularity of air purification that lasted through the 1970s and the 1980s.

HEPA Air Purifiers Are Commercialized

The Hammes brothers never stopped working on air purifier systems, and eventually ended up founding IQAir – a company which continues to provide top notch air purifiers to this day. IQAir held the distinction of offering the first air purification system that used a HEPA air filter as a part of its manufacture.

In the early 1990s, another major player entered the air purification arena: Austin Air. This company, founded by Richard Taylor, has become the largest and best air purifier manufacturer in the world, and is responsible for inventing a 360-degree air intake system that takes the best advantage of what HEPA technology has to offer.


Many other companies have joined the air purification scene since its earliest days, and consumers have more options than ever before to take advantage of what HEPA technology has to offer. In addition to providing clean, healthy air, todays’ high quality HEPA air purifiers offer unparalleled asthma, sinus and allergy relief for many people prone to those types of chronic conditions.

People who use air purifiers regularly report that they sleep much more soundly at night and generally just feel better and healthier overall. Millions of people take advantage of the technology every single day.

About the author

Kenneth Roberts

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